Driving Demand

An intelligent transportation system (ITS) is an integration of communication systems and information technologies

designed primarily for improving safety, security and efficiency in transportation networks. It is an advanced system that will eventually dominate traditional forms of transportation systems.

In Indian metro systems, ITS components have mostly been integrated within fare systems. Signalling technologies have also advanced to improve safety and efficiency by reducing human error components; however, there is still a long way to go before global standards are met.

Intelligent fare systems

Advancements in transit fare collection systems have the potential to revolutionise public transportation as we know it today and transform it into a much more efficient and effective service that benefits all stakeholders – customers, operators, industry players, government officials, and urban communities.

On the one hand, advanced fare collection systems offer greater convenience for everyday payments, seamless travel and value-added services for customers. For operators, on the other hand, they offer lower operations cost, higher fare revenue collection, new sources of revenue, reliable ridership and system data, greater throughput, better capacity utilisation, and improved environmental sustainability. Meanwhile, for industry players, they present opportunities for innovation and growth.

A decade ago, in 2006, only one metro system – Delhi Metro, Phase I – had deployed an automatic fare collection (AFC) system with contactless smart cards and radio frequency identification (RFID) tokens. Kolkata metro, on the other hand, initially used magnetic-stripe paper tickets, and it was only in 2011 that AFC systems were installed on the metro line.

Between 2006 and 2014, AFC system orders were placed for all new operational metro and monorail projects like Delhi Metro, Phase II, Kolkata North-South corridor, Bangalore Metro Phase I, Gurgaon Phase I, Mumbai Metro Line 1 and the Mumbai monorail. As a result, the market size of AFC in India expanded from Rs 1.27 billion in 2006 to around Rs 13 billion in 2014. Further, from 2014 to 2016, the market size increased by more than 57 per cent to Rs 20.42 billion.

At present, the fare collection system prevalent in India is automatic and uses smart cards and RFID tokens. However, most smart cards in Indian transit systems are closed loop, that is, the smart cards are operated and maintained by the transit agency.

Fare systems are typically not integrated across various modes of public transport. Nonetheless, the scenario is slowly changing. Currently, multimodal fare systems have been introduced by Delhi Metro and Bangalore Metro. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has introduced a common mobility card called More Delhi, which can be used for travel on metro trains on Delhi routes, the Airport Express Line and select feeder buses to begin with. The DMRC plans to integrate the card with Delhi Transport Corporation buses later. Likewise, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited and the Bangalore Metropolitan Transportation Corporation (BMTC) have jointly introduced an integrated metro-cum-bus ticket pass for unlimited journeys for one day on the metro and BMTC buses. In December 2016, the Uttar Pradesh government announced plans to launch a common fare card for city buses and the metro system once the Lucknow Metro becomes operational. The card will be RFID and swipe enabled. In the future, card use could be expanded to include autorickshaws as well as rural and urban buses run by the state transport department.

E-wallets and digital payment options are also being introduced in the Indian market, with Delhi Metro and Citibank India having launched a two-in-one transit credit card, the Delhi Metro Citibank credit card. Bangalore Metro has introduced a State Bank of India (SBI) debit-cum-transit card that can be used for metro rides and ATM transactions. Meanwhile, Mumbai Metro Line 1 is also in the process of launching debit-cum-transit cards.

A pilot project for digital payment options on 10 Delhi Metro stations was announced to begin from January 1, 2017. The transactions for token and smart card purchase/top-up at these stations were planned to be done through e-wallets (Paytm) as well as debit and credit cards. However, currently the plan has been stalled due to political opposition.

Recently, in February 2017, SBI launched a “combo card” in Chennai which functions as a debit/credit card and a metro fare card. Customers can apply for the access cards online through the e-apply platform on the SBI portal or through the sales teams present at metro stations. The card will be linked to the bank accounts of customers.

Intelligent signalling technologies

Over the past two decades, the signalling system has evolved from an absolute system (deployed on Kolkata Metro in 1984) to automatic and advanced systems. Delhi Metro, Phase I adopted automatic signalling for the first time with commercial operations in 2002. Post this, all upcoming metro projects are planning to use this system.

Such systems offer high levels of safety with trains operating at close headway, improve customer interface, eliminate chances of accidents by continuous speed monitoring, enhance productivity of rolling stock, help in increasing frequency of the trains, etc.

The segment will see further advancement with the first-ever deployment of a communications-based train control (CBTC) system with driverless technology in Delhi Metro, Phase III. Lines 7 and 8 of Delhi Metro, Phase III, will have advanced features of unattended train operation. These trains will have GPS-enabled automatic speed calibration for executing remote commands from the operational control centre (OCC). Besides Delhi, Hyderabad will also implement CBTC. Trains running on three corridors will be controlled and monitored from the state-of-the-art OCC at Uppal.

Grades of automation

Automatic train control (ATC) systems include automatic train protection (ATP), automatic train operation (ATO) and automatic train supervision (ATS) systems. It refers to the entire system, which has a combination of, or all, automatic functions that help in controlling and supervising train operations. The primary function of the ATP system is to keep trains at a safe distance from each other. The data collected by this system is passed on to the ATS system where it is compared with the timeline to determine if the trains are running according to schedule.

After the ATC system is the CBTC system which has the highest grade of automation (GOA4) designed to provide immediate status updates and control to avoid accidents in special circumstances like sudden breakdowns and power loss. CBTC, because of the mobile nature of the application, uses wireless local area networks.

The advanced CBTC – radio frequency-CBTC – enables continuous two-way digital communication between each train and the control centre. The control system benefits from enhanced information such as train performance data and continuous train position and speed. Systems of this type can, therefore, implement dynamic distance control, basically making the block locations and lengths consistent with individual trains.

Passenger facilitation

Today, almost all metro systems in the country feature electronic information systems and passenger information systems. CCTVs are deployed at stations and platforms for enhanced security. Developers are also introducing apps for updating passengers regarding line connectivity and providing operational updates such as delay information.

Recently, in February 2017, Australia-based XTD Limited announced plans to commence a six-month trial of its cross-track media system at Delhi Metro’s Kashmere Gate station from April 2017. The company will install four screens in partnership with TDI International and the DMRC.


The network of rail-based urban transportation systems in the country has been rapidly developing and the growth is expected to be maintained over the next few years. Over the past decade (2006-16), the urban rail network length increased by over 225 km to reach around 308 km. Further, metro lines are currently under implementation in 13 cities and planned for another 20 cities. With the concept of urban rail not being new any more, the focus is now shifting towards improving operational components, and investments in ITS are set to rise. Globally, the market size for ITS is projected to reach $47.6 billion by 2022, backed by increasing acceptance in emerging markets including India. So far, there are no clear leaders dominating the ITS market, and thus there will be huge opportunities for potential local players to gain market share.